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NFL Preseason Preview - Arizona (0-0) at Green Bay (0-0)



By John McMullen, NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - A rough week for the Green Bay Packers will culminate at Lambeau Field when Aaron Rodgers and Company welcome the Arizona Cardinals to Titletown in the preseason opener for both clubs.

The Pack lost projected starting left tackle Bryan Bulaga to a torn ACL earlier this week and also saw receiver Jordy Nelson undergo a procedure on his knee which will keep the Kansas State product on the sidelines for the entire preseason.

The injuries highlight the fact that this version of the Packers is showing more than a few holes, ones that are often masked by perhaps the best player in all of football, Rodgers.

The pedestrian offensive line was supposed to be bolstered by Bulaga shifting out to the all-important left tackle position and Evan Dietrich-Smith taking over full-time at center while Green Bay, which seemingly hasn't had a legitimate running back since John Brockington called Lambeau Field home, finally addressed that position by bringing in rookie Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin.

Part of the plan imploded last Saturday night when Bulaga suffered a torn ACL during the club's intra-squad scrimmage, leaving few options for coach Mike McCarthy.

He could move Marshall Newhouse back to left tackle where he allowed nine sacks and a team-high 33 hurries in 2012 or he could leave Rodgers' future health in the hands of rookie David Bakhtiari, a fourth- round draft choice in 2013 who lacks quickness and is best-suited for the right side.

Don Barclay, who makes Bakhtiari look like Jonathan Ogden as far as athleticism goes, and former first-round bust Derek Sherrod, who has not played since breaking his leg during the 2011 season, are less likelier stop- gaps but anything is possible at this point.

"The left tackle position's a pretty important spot -- that's a given," Packers GM Ted Thompson told the Associated Press. "It's a difficult position and that's the reason you see those guys drafted really high every year and that sort of thing. We've gone to Plan B before and done OK and won some games. We'll do it now."

For now, Bakhtiari will get the first opportunity.

"He's young. He's young, he's raw, he doesn't have the experience, but I think he has the confidence in himself," Rodgers said. "It's not easy playing left tackle in the NFL, especially when you have a right-handed quarterback. If they stick with him over there, then he's going to have the experience in the fire."

On defense, first-round pick Datone Jones will be asked to help fortify a shaky front seven while All-Pro rush linebacker Clay Matthews needs to stay healthy in order to bolster a mediocre group around him.

Arizona's first training camp under new head coach Bruce Arians figures to finally bring some clarity back to the quarterback position in the desert.

The ping-ponging between signal-callers Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley was a major reason why Ken Whisenhunt lost his job in Arizona.

Veteran Carson Palmer was acquired from Oakland in the offseason and while the former Southern Cal star may be on the downside on his career, he figures to be quite the upgrade over the terrible triumvirate of a year ago and the best QB in Arizona since Kurt Warner.

Rashard Mendenhall arrives from Pittsburgh hoping to resuscitate what has been a moribund running game and the Cards hope 2012 first-round pick Michael Floyd can speed up his development and provide a solid complement to Larry Fitzgerald outside the numbers. Also, stud cornerback Patrick Peterson is hoping to get a handful of plays on offense each and every week.

"I had hopes that he could be something special, in a package a week," Arians said. "But after you see the athlete he is, it's like the guy could be one of the top five receivers in the league. So, you say, 'Hmmm, that's a lot of weapons sitting over here next to me.' "

Rebuilding one of the NFL's worst offensive lines is also of paramount importance with seventh overall pick Jonathan Cooper figuring to step right in at left guard.

Defensively, a talented group will have to prepare for the impending suspension of stud inside linebacker Daryl Washington.

These franchises have met 22 times in the preseason, with the Packers winning the last six and holding a 16-6 advantage in the all-time series.

08/08 16:39:18 ET


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